I am tired of struggling for excellence. At 66 years old it’s time to get comfy being average. I can put on my worn out, torn, jumbo-sized t-shirt, a.k.a. nightgown, and my blue fuzzy slippers which have lost their nap, settle into my used-before-I-got-it lounge chair, and rest on my laurels of imperfection.
This week I am dancing, singing in choir and in a musical, playing the piano for church, writing biographies, teaching dance, and going to a 12-step meeting. The only thing I’ll do perfectly is attend my meeting because I am a fruitcake, everyone there is a fruitcake, and we thrive on sharing our imperfections. Everything else I’ll do imperfectly. I will be mediocre at every single one of those activities. I better get used to it, nay, love it. I’m average and it’s just fine! That sounds good. Maybe I can wrap myself around and into that belief.
I wrote those words ten years ago and I’m still wrestling with mediocrity!
Last week I was chagrined to have only one photo accepted into an art show (the second one was rejected). There are so very many photographers — even local ones who are friends of mine — who create exceptionally fine pieces. Part of my lack of excellence is that I have a cheap camera. Part is that I’m starting late and I’m too scared to learn new tricks. And part is that I am just not that imaginative although I’m quite good at stealing other people’s ideas.
And on the very same day, one of the stories I wrote was rejected. Although I have had a few pieces of writing published here and there, I know I am just average at using language. Being old and having a brain which was concussed six times certainly doesn’t help. In August, I took a writing class at the John C. Campbell Folk School and was given both good ideas and encouragement. But when I took a class in poetry last week I was horrible:
“Acorns are falling; squirrels sleep in.”That was the best I could do.
I bounce around with different areas of interest, which doesn’t help me perfect one. Unlike a professor I know, an international expert on saw grass, I can’t think of anything I want to learn or to do requiring that huge amount of expertise. Really, though, do I want to spend my life with sawgrass?
I am amazed that I can get disappointed at age 77 over the fact that I will probably never rise above average. Why should I? Other people seem to have no problem with the idea of my being average.
My friend, Helen, said I shouldn’t run from being mediocre but think of it as a sport to be enjoyed. I mentioned this to Wanda while she was doing her cranial-sacral manipulation of my head. We talked about my need to be outstanding. Where did it come from? How old was I when I thought it would be important? What was I supposed to be outstanding at? Or rather: At what was I supposed to be outstanding? Taking care of others? Tap dancing?
It’s red-faced embarrassing to think that I should still be working on preadolescent parental issues. It’s ancient history. “Why did you not get “O’s” (for Outstanding) in allyour classes?” I was instructed that being a good student would keep my parents from fighting, Mother from going to the mental hospital, Father from getting drunk and committing suicide. I thought I had banished all that by purposely getting a “B” in my last graduate class.
It’s fine to enjoy striving to be the best at something. Where I run amuck is the belief that if I dosignificantly better than average, I willbesignificantly better than average – a super hero who prevents bad things from happening. The reality has been that, despite my efforts, people drink, go to mental hospitals, and die.
Over many years of hitting my head against the wall I know (but sometimes forget) that I can look for spiritual solutions to problems I can’t solve otherwise. This is a spiritual problem and requires a spiritual solution. When I had trouble creating the last paragraph to this essay, I wrote some friends for help. This morning the Universe provided Roland, age 97, who wrote me: “You do not have to be responsible to anybody for anything. Without your turning it, the world can spin. For your final paragraph write: It’s not my job anymore!”
Rosemary Woodel loves to write, sing, practice photography. Her recent video is popular among local photographers: